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I’ve always had a thing for Halloween. I didn’t always have the best childhood and Halloween was one of those days out of the year where I not only got free stuff to eat but I also got to dress up and be creative. Dressing up was an escape from the realities of my life – I could be Spider-Man or Batman or whoever I wanted, as long as I could create the right makeup or come up with the right outfit. Sometimes, being poor, that wasn’t easy…but I always found something.
When I became a high school student, I started to stay mostly away from the pre-packaged Halloween costumes. I would take components from them if I did buy one but I’d add my own twists. It became a fun exercise – to see if I could trump the previous years’ costumes with minimal resources and maximum creativity. As you can see from these early photos (from more than TEN YEARS AGO….jeez, I’m old), not every costume was a winner but I had fun with it.
After high school, through college and beyond, I got even more into it – buying big pieces to use as my main costume component and then adding to it every year with upgrades or smaller accessories. My go-to costume for a couple of years was my pimp costume. I started with just the large “pimp coat” that I got at Spencer’s in Auburn, Maine and then the following year I added a cane and hat. I would use this costume off and on over the next few years, right up until I started to cosplay. However, in between the first pimp costume outing and my first real cosplay (as Jareth from the movie Labyrinth), I also dressed as a vampire and as Michael Jackson and as many other things.
So with all that experimenting being done, it was only natural that I’d end up finding out about Cosplay at some point. I heard (back in 2011) that a local comic book store, Coast City Comics (Portland, Maine), was about to begin the first ever comic book convention held in Maine. Knowing that I wanted to try cosplaying there, I decided to show off my first ever cosplay at a house party first, to see how it was received by everyone. I ended up winning first place at the party as Jareth from the movie Labyrinth. I was beyond stoked. I later brought that cosplay to Coast City Comicon in 2011 and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Since that day I’ve refined the original Jareth cosplay by getting a new wig, as well as adding new cosplays to my repertoire: Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: Episode III is my current favorite and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was last year’s. I am constantly looking for new ways to improve the old costumes or looking for other characters to add to my stable (my current targets are The Punisher and Spider-Man Noir).
Cosplaying can be the most wonderful thing in the world and it can also be the most annoying thing in the world. Some cosplayers become full of themselves and decide that they have the right to do anything and say anything to anyone, but I’ve found that these folks are the minority rather than the majority. Still others have problems with sexual harassment (either giving or receiving) and then others become embroiled in cosplay politics (which aren’t a real thing – unless you make it real).
For me, the main draw is the community. The spectacle. When I walk into a convention hall room and there are six other folks brandishing lightsabers, I get a chill up my spine. That little kid inside me who still loves Halloween screams out for more.
Cosplay, at its best, is a group of individuals being creative and being supportive of one another. There’s a little competition, obviously, but that’s not why most people get into cosplay. (I don’t even enter into contests for the most part, anymore) I’ve met a ton of amazing people and made some great friends with this hobby. I’ve also learned a lot and I’ve been able to experience another facet of conventions that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
So far I’ve been able to meet two of my wrestling idols: SARGEANT SLAUGHTER and HACKSAW JIM DUGGAN from WWF (which is now called WWE…plus, the Sargeant was also in G.I. Joe). These are guys who were a big part of my childhood. Did I need to cosplay to meet them? Absolutely not, but my costume gave me a chance to interact with them more than my regular duds would have enabled me to.
I was also able to meet Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode I, Toad from X-Men, Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe) and not only did I get to meet him but I was able to be stabbed by him with my own lightsaber. It might sound weird to you, but I was thrilled. Normally he only does one photo for fans but he made an exception in my case because he wanted his “revenge”. He said “Here, one more photo. Make like I’m running you through.” I tried not to smile but I did, anyway.
On top of THAT amazing trio of people, I was able to take several photos with actor Ernie Hudson (Winston from GHOSTBUSTERS) and he not only held my lightsaber but was waving it around and making karate noises. This was another instance in which I was able to experience more with the actor because of my cosplay. If I’d had regular duds, no doubt it would’ve been just one photo.
These are just some examples. I’ve also gotten to meet model Marissa Jade (yowza), Jordan Carver, Ron Jeremy (yep, the porn guy), Todd Dezago, the MST3K crew, Lee Weeks, J.K. Woodward and more. Cosplay opens doors that might not exist under normal circumstances. It sets you apart, it makes you one of the attractions – and most of all…it’s fun and rewarding. Some of the best conversations I’ve had at conventions were when people talked to me about their passion for the characters and how much they appreciated someone dressing up as them and representing their favorite fandoms.
And the kids…the kids are just the best. They get so excited and I can see the look in their eyes, that same look that says “I love Halloween. I am always going to love costumes.” It’s the same look I had when I was a kid. The same look I still have.
I guess what I’m trying to say is if any of this looks interesting to you, be a part of it. It’s so simple. Find a character you love. Throw together a costume (you can always add to it later) and just get out there. Don’t worry about people judging your costume (even the best ones get judged). You’ll make the world a slightly better place. It’s not fighting fires and it’s not running the country, but it’s creating smiles. It’s shining a light on the darkness of everyday life and pushing it back beyond the fringes where we can forget about it for a while. All the charity work that gets accomplished through cosplay and all the boosts to local economies when cosplayers attend things like Free Comic Book Days for local comic stores is no small thing.
With that, I will stop here and leave a couple more random cosplay images for your amusement. Until next time.
Graduated from Saint Joseph's College Of Maine with a Bachelor's in Fine Arts - Creative Writing as well as Stonecoast, a low-residency MFA program through University of Southern Maine. Has several screenplays, a novel, graphic novel and a memoir all in development.